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Unread 07-11-2019, 09:02 PM
A. Sterling A. Sterling is offline
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Location: Maryland, U.S.A.
Posts: 63

Hi again, Andrew.

I like this, and I’m still smiling over that opening line. The rest of the poem doesn’t let it down.

There are a couple spots, though, that could do with revising:

S2: I take it that what happened is the narrator previously told John about his Viking funeral plan – but the second line seems to suggest that the narrator is saying that it’s all going to work out after all, just not exactly as planned, while the final two suggest that the original promise wasn’t worth much. I think either is fine, but it really has to be one or the other, since if he is looking at it as “it’s almost the same thing” then the original promise was worth something.

S3: I personally like ‘impart’ there and would keep it as is. It has a real sense of subtlety to it that you’d lose by switching to, say, ‘bouquet’.

S5: I don’t care much for the series of color words here – it doesn’t give me a sense of the place at all.

S7: I think the meter in the first line is too irregular, especially with the other substitutions later on. But I think the other ones give it some forward momentum, whereas the first line is just a bit clunky.
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Unread 07-12-2019, 12:14 PM
R. S. Gwynn's Avatar
R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Beaumont, TX
Posts: 4,325

Where there's a will, there's a way for all DIYers.
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Unread 07-14-2019, 02:26 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Staffordshire, England
Posts: 2,906

Hi Andrew,

I've read this lots of times. It's a fun idea, but I think it possibly goes on for too long. The first stanza is fantastic in its tone and its economy: I feel I immediately know who John is, who Paula is, the crazy plans the N and John have cooked up which are now 'deep-sixed' (which I love) by dull practicalities. And then 'shade and whispers' is suddenly, unexpectedly beautiful after the farcical opening.

I don't think you need S2 - we can guess there might have been alcohol involved in the planning of the venture, and I think it's better to leave the idea of cremation implicit for when the N is poured onto the ground at the vineyard. I'm not keen on the 'loaves' simile. The S isn't working for me really.

I'm not sure about S6 and 7. It took me a lot of reads to get it and I still don't know that I have. So the cow would eat the Ns ashes, which are all mixed up with the grass, and John would fire burning arrows, Viking style, at the resulting dried cow shit until he hits one and it ignites? Is that the sort of thing that goes on at California wine tasting tours? It's unclear to me whether this is something N genuinely expects to happen. That could all be completed wrong and I'm probably being very thick, but it isn't a satisfying ending for me, anyway. I feel like if it's going for crazy, vulgar farce it should be clearer, at least. I can see a potentially moving sentimentality in clinging to the idea of the Viking funeral, but I don't think it's there quite.

I might be inclined to cut this to 4 stanzas, with the current 4 and 5 reversed. I might change the sex of the tour guide so there's no confusion about which 'she' is doing what. Maybe add 'now' to 'but you have to go', to establish the idea that you expect John to visit your resting place.

It’s deep-sixed, John, my Viking funeral—
with permits, Paula can’t afford it all.
This is a loss, for sure, but then again
,,,,,,,,,,I’ll only be shade and whispers then.

Instead, I’ll rest among Sonoman vines,
what's left of me a subtlety to wines:
when you can taste Vesuvius in a glass
,,,,,,,,,,what’s the impart of my fat ass?

You’ve never been, John, but now you'll have to go.
It’s an elemental palette of yellow,
blue, white, green and purple tight in rows
,,,,,,,,,,where each cuneiform vine grows.

I think of Paula on a tour. She’ll walk
through rootstocks whose arms reach up and interlock
with day, and when the tour guide turns his head,
,,,,,,,,,,discreetly she’ll pour me on my bed.

Of course, this does mean missing out the fiery ending which obviously links back to the abandoned Viking funeral. Hmm. But maybe it doesn't need that circling back, and you're left instead with something more simple and touching.

I think the list of colours is a bit fillerish, and more could be done there. Maybe 'fiery' palette, or some sort of fire imagery could work there, to give a subtle link back to the first S? The suggestion that 'this will have to do, fire-wise'. Maybe 'glow' as a rhyme rather than the awkward feminine 'yellow'.

All the best

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Unread 07-14-2019, 04:09 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 3,161

Hi Andrew,

There's lots to like here. It's a great idea nicely handled for the most part, though a couple of stanzas seem weaker than the rest. I have some nits and wonderings.

It’s deep-sixed, John, my Viking funeral—
with permits, Paula can’t afford it all.
This is a loss, for sure, but then again
..........I’ll only be shade and whispers then.

So, they can't afford the Viking funeral. In S1L4, why not, "I'll just be ...", for stronger metre, rather than "only be"? The former, to me, sounds more idiomatic, but then again, we're from different places.

Now you can rest at ease when my soul’s erased—
a corpulent vessel will still be set ablaze,
so consider the inebriated oaths valuable as last week’s loaves.

So, he'll still be cremated. Thematically, the loaves do seem a little rhyme-driven. I wasn't initially sure whetherthe inebriated oaths were those the N previously made (he vowed to have a Viking funeral) or whether these were oaths that would be taken at a Viking funeral (since the first two lines look futureward to the funeral). Though now I'm pretty sure they're the former. "my/our inebriated oaths" might make this clearer. I think Mark has point in considering losing this stanza, except that without it we don't know that he'll be cremated.

'corpulent vessel' doesn't quite work for me. 'Corpulent vessel' here means the N's body, and the play on vessel 'ship'/'body'. But in even the Viking ceremony, 'corpulent vessel' would still refer to his body, I think. Why would the ship be corpulent? For this to work fully (IMHO), it needs a phrase that would refer to the ship in the context of the Viking funeral, but also be open to read as meaning the N's body. 'vessel' works well in this respect, but not 'corpulent'.

Instead, I’ll rest among Sonoman vines,
what's left of me a subtlety to wines:
when you can taste Vesuvius in a glass
..........what’s the impart of my fat ass?

So, the ashes will be scattered among the vines, and impart their taste to the wine. I don't wholly understand the logic of the last two lines. Does wine at Sonoma have the taste of Versuvius? Google tells me it was once volcanic, so maybe that's it? Or is that a red herring? Maybe the point is that you can taste the ash from Versuvius in certain Italian wines -- maybe this is famous thing that I've just not heard of -- and so you might be able to taste N's ash in the Californian wines. And is the question in L4 a rhetoric question: given the taste volcanic ash in wine, you notice the taste my ashes (what difference will they make, after all?). Or a genuine question: if you can tastes ashes in the wine, what will the taste of my ashes add? If 'when' is being used in the sense of 'if' ('given than'), 'if' would make things clearer. Otherwise it can be read as 'when you taste the wine made from grapes fertilised by my ashes'.

I think of Paula on a tour. She’ll walk
through rootstocks whose arms reach up and interlock
with day, and when the tour guide turns her head,
..........discreetly she’ll pour me on my bed.

This is Paula taking a tour of vineyard, the rootstock being the young vines that Paula will tip the N's ashes on. At first I thought she was pouring wine (containing the taste of N) made from the vineyard, since the wine was the subject of the previous S. I almost wonder if, with a bit of tweaking, you could swap the order of this and the last stanza. Or maybe I just need to read more carefully.

You’ve never been, John, but you have to go.
It’s an elemental palette of yellow,
blue, white, green and purple tight in rows
..........where each cuneiform vine grows.

John should go, it looks good there. This stanza seems superfluous. The next stanza tells us John will go (although I guess this is a suggestion he should also anyway, before the N dies). The palette lines don't seem to add much, and the list of colours seems go on too long. 'Cuneiform' gives us Sumerian to add to Norse, Latin/Italian and Californian. I reckon you could cut and not lose much.

When I’m gone, you’ll go and let your gaze
fall on the cow limping off to graze,
then let it settle there where, since you know it,
..........soil is all mixed up with poet.

The cow seems to wander in for rhyme purposes. I don't really expect a cow in a vineyard (and why a limping one?). That said most of my experience of vineyards were those on steep slopes of the Mosel around Trier, for which a goat would be your best bet. Maybe they're common in Californian vineyards? But still, the cow seems to be there to set up the rhyme with 'graze' -- to temporarily catch John's eye before it settles on the soil, prompting John's reflection of the N's ashes being there. Or maybe Mark's reading is what you intend. That the cow's eating the grass and John is looking at a turd containing the N? I guess 'soil' might be being used in that way. Still, nothing here suggests vineyard to me.

But, though I wouldn’t be there, I’m torn: no one
would see you fire flames in the fading sun
and miss so often that when I’d finally light body would eclipse the night.

I like that we return the Viking funeral (although it seems we're been away from it for quite a while). I like the comedic intent of the hours of missing (I've seen GOT and didn't think of that scene, and I think this is different kind of humour, being a modern man of whom we've no expectation that he can use a bow).

I don't think you need comma after 'But'. Actually, the 'But' seems to suggest that follows is being opposed to the previous stanza, but it isn't. Assuming it does work off the previous stanza, you get John knowing the soil is mixed with poet, "but ... I wouldn’t be there": 'there' seems to refer to the soil John was looking at, which makes for an ambiguous start to the stanza -- or did for me. 'Although' might better replace "but, though", I think.



Last edited by Matt Q; 07-14-2019 at 09:28 AM.
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Unread 07-14-2019, 02:42 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is online now
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,698

Hi all,

A major revision is posted trying to address some major concerns (and some from outside readers).

James: Thanks for your thoughts. You're right on loaves. I've fixed that. Enough people have pushed on 'corpulent' that I've been convinced to change it, though I do like it still. I've tried something else than 'eclipse,' too. I'm going to keep thinking about S6.

Anka: I hope my edits address your concern for S2, S5, and S7. Thank you also for directing me to things you really like as well.

Sam: Ha! Yes. I've seen things like that. Does the pithy comment mean the poem was largely working for you?

Mark: Thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate your close reading. I've deep-sixed the loaves at your and James' urging. I still think there's a value to it, but S2 and S6 are the two that people seem to think should go. I'll consider each. I hope my revisions of the last two, though, make them clearer. I do like your idea of the fiery metaphors for the vineyard, which I may come back to even if I keep the ending.

Matt: Thank you, too, for the close reading. I've a bunch of your suggestions, including flipping the two stanzas. I've reworded it a bit so it's smooth. I think it helps with the logic and flow. Here's how I see it:

S1: we can't have the viking funeral I wanted because of cost and red tape
S2: you might feel bad given you told me you'd make sure it happened, but we'll still light something!
S3: Paula will pour my ashes on in a vineyard
S4: that vineyard, in Sonoma, will have my ashes and, given the fact that the soil affects the flavor so much (as Vesuvius does for local Italian wines), imagine what my ashes would add!
S5: a short description of the beauty of the land
S6: a potential actual end that can still happen. Cows are present in Sonoma, but so are sheep and goats, and many on site because they're all about biodynamic wine. I picked a lamb for the alliteration. I didn't really do it so much for the rhyme but because I like the (certainly over-subtle) allusion to Petrarch and Arnaut Daniel, though theirs is an ox. I also think it gives a picture of the life there, even for a brief shot.
S7: lament of the Viking funeral N will not have.
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Unread Yesterday, 05:15 PM
A. Sterling A. Sterling is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: Maryland, U.S.A.
Posts: 63

Hi again, Andrew,

I like your new stanza two, which clarifies that it was John who made the promise – I was thinking of it more as both him and the narrator together. I think the reordering of S3 and S4 also works better.

Otherwise, though, I prefer the pre-edited version. I find ‘only’ in S1 more rhythmically satisfying there than ‘just,’ perhaps because it delivers something unexpected in the meter along with the unexpected turn towards the serious.

I’m starting to think, as others have said, that you could do without S6. I hate to see the know it/poet rhyme go – but it really isn’t as strong as the other stanzas, and the more I look at it, the more the “when I’m gone, you’ll go” just seems flat. Ditto on the new S7 – it is indeed easier to follow what's going on, but it strikes me as too matter-of-fact now. Also, I’m not keen on the tragic/panic rhyme.
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Unread Yesterday, 06:01 PM
Allen Tice's Avatar
Allen Tice Allen Tice is online now
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Brooklyn, NY USA
Posts: 4,344

I like this: it has prädikat, a wine term (among other uses) meaning roughly “quality”, force, movement, high rank, blah blah; and humor in an ironic vein.

I miss “loaves”. Such an oral word.
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